Polítiki salata – Greek coleslaw

Greek kitchen basics

Polítiki salata, is a crispy cabbage salad, that comes in many versions. In its essence it’s a naked coleslaw with pedigree from the Greeks of Istanbul.

Head straight to the recipe.

Polítiki salata, let’s have a tiny language course. Salata, I am pretty sure you can guess it stands for salad. Polítiki is a bit trickier to guess, it means from Istanbul (Turkey). In Greek -Poli – the first part of the word is the nickname of Istanbul. Istanbul in itself means ‘in the city’ or better yet The City, as Constantinople – modern-day Istanbul had been acknowledged for many years. So, Polítiki Salata is the one from Istanbul, specifically from the Greeks that used to live in Istanbul.

When it comes to immigration we Greeks have quite some stories to tell. The Greek-Turkish population exchange in the first quarter of the previous century is possibly one of the toughest. In the Balkans, WWI did not quite end in 1920s. It was followed by the last Greco-Turkish war which saw the flaming catastrophe of Izmir (one of the biggest Greek minority cities in the then Ottoman empire) which ended bitterly with a population exchange based religious principles.

politiki salata, cabbage salad @eatyourselfgreek

The agreement of swapping minority populations between countries was a bumpy ride. Imagine growing up in Northern Greece as a Muslim in Greek territory, you were sent packing and forced to make a new home in a land miles away where you might not even speak the language. Similarly, orthodox Greeks inhabiting Asia Minor (most of coastal Turkey), Pontus (Dead Sea) and of course Istanbul also had to head for the ‘motherland’; we are talking about 1,5 million people being relocated. It was the most peaceful way to end the conflict- people were fleeing for their lives as an aftermath of the war (see Syria now) especially given that the alternative would have been genocide. Thank you, Nansen for facilitating the exchange.

Source: Greek Film Center
Source: Greek Film Center

If you haven’t tapped in this part of Balkan history there are many great resources to check here and here. If you prefer a softer version than hard facts, there is a great film that treats this period of history calls A Touch of Spice, or Polítiki kouzina in Greek. The film tells the same story only a bit more poetically, through the kitchen of a spice-obsessed Greek professor’s journey to adulthood.

a touch of spice
A touch of Spice – Source: Cine.gr

Relocations, no matter how hard or smooth, always bring something else along, in this case, something very tasty. The Greeks of Istanbul, Polites as we call them in Greek, have left a profound mark on Greek cuisine. Their dishes were renowned for their eclectic use of spices and herbs, but most of all their love for good food. Polítiki salata is one of this great dishes, a simple signature salad, crisp and fresh that still accompanies our tables.

Polítiki salata has a good measure of vinegar, some add as much as a cup of vinegar diluted with as much water and give the shredded cabbage a bath. They are making a quick pickle.

politiki salata @eatyourselfgreek

I do enjoy my vinegar, however, I am not always too keen on pickle sharpness. Especially when I want my salad to complement and not overpower my main dish. So, I have a simple slaw, with a higher ratio of vinegar than olive oil and a bit of lemon. It is still sharp and works really great with roasts or actually on its own.

Politiki salata, Greek coleslaw

Course: Salad
Cuisine: Greek


  • 300 gr white cabbage shredded
  • 1 large carrot grated
  • 1-2 pickled red pepper piperia Florinis
  • 1 small stick of celery
  • 3-4 sprigs parsley
  • Dressing
  • 3 tbspn red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbspn olive oil
  • 1 lemon for its juice
  • Salt


  • In a large mixing bowl, put together the shredded cabbage, carrot, celery, pickled red pepper and parsley.
  • Toss with salt and gently squeeze the shredded cabbage.
  • Before serving, mix together the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice and add to your salad.
  • You can keep it chilled in the refrigerator for up to 2 days without the dressing.

politiki salata @eatyourselfgreek

Have you ever tried it? It’s a staple of mine and I keep wondering why I haven’t posted about it for so long. I hope it becomes a healthy staple salad for you as well. Let me know if you like the film.

From Athens with love,


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6 thoughts on “Polítiki salata – Greek coleslaw

  1. Nick @ GreekBoston.com says:

    It’s true that there is such a thing as Greek coleslaw! This recipe has a unique flavor, but it’s just as delicious as typical coleslaw recipes.

  2. Allan says:

    Love this salad. Had it for the first time in a lovely seaside restaurant in Agios Ioannis in Pelion about 5 year ago. We make it all the time now.

    • Eugenia says:

      It’s certainly a staple! So glad you love it, and what a wonderful place to try it! Pelion is one of my favourite location, mountains and the sea in one!

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